The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to significantly increase agricultural quarantine inspection fees at U.S. ports of entry in addition to adding two new fees. APHIS is also proposing to adjust the hourly rates charged when its employees perform overtime work associated with Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection (AQI) activities.
AQI activities include inspections conducted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of conveyances, cargo and passenger baggage entering the country as well as APHIS' analytical and scientific work to track pests overseas. In addition, APHIS performs focus inspections at ports of entry and develops the import regulations that protect U.S. animal and plant health from foreign pests. According to APHIS, the revenue collected from the fees for these activities have been insufficient to cover costs, requiring the use of "appropriated funds that should be available for other important homeland security functions and initiatives."
This proposal lowers certain fees such as those for inspections of international air passengers (from $5 to $4 per passenger) and railroad cars (from $7.75 to $2 per car) since the current fees generate more revenue than needed to cover costs. However, the proposal increases most fees such as fees for inspections of commercial aircraft (from $70.75 to $225 per aircraft), commercial maritime cargo vessels (from $496 to $825 per vessel), commercial trucks with a transponder (from $105 to $320 a year) and commercial trucks without a transponder (from $5.25 to $8 per crossing). APHIS is also proposing to add a $2 per passenger fee for inspecting cruise vessels and passenger baggage as well as a $375 fee for conducting and monitoring treatments to imported cargo to minimize pest risks.
In addition, APHIS is proposing to increase the hourly rates charged for Sundays, holidays or other overtime work performed by its employees for any person, firm or corporation having ownership, custody or control of plants, plant products, animals, poultry, animal byproducts, germ plasm, organisms, vectors or other regulated commodities or articles subject to certain inspection, laboratory testing, certification or quarantine under USDA regulations for each fiscal year from 2014 through 2018. The fee of $51 per hour for Monday-Saturday and holidays would be raised to $74 for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 and $75 thereafter. The fee of $67 per hour for Sundays would be increased to $98 for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, $99 for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and $100 thereafter.
APHIS is also proposing to increase the overtime rates charged to owners or operators of aircraft for inspection or quarantine services provided by an APHIS employee at an airport outside the regularly established hours of service for these fiscal years as well. The current fee of $41 per hour for Monday-Saturday and holidays would be increased to $64 for fiscal years 2014 through 2016 and $65 thereafter. The fee of $55 per hour for Sundays would go to $84 for fiscal year 2014, $85 for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, and $86 thereafter.
Furthermore, APHIS is proposing to indicate that agricultural inspections performed by CBP may be billed in accordance with CBP overtime regulations for services performed outside of regular business hours. Comments on these proposals are due no later than June 24, 2014.